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Entertainment & Nightlife in San Diego

Although San Diego may be better known for sun, sand and surf, the city actually boasts a vibrant and flourishing arts and entertainment scene. From world-class theatres and magnificent museums to cool cafes and hole-in-the-wall nightclubs, there is something here for every entertainment taste.

In San Diego, jazz, and rhythms ranging from bebop to blues, is the specialty of the Gaslamp Quarter. Country music still retains a degree of popularity with dance establishments scattered about Mission Valley and northern communities. Irish crooners, lively piano bars, tapas bars and flamenco are all within walking distance of downtown's hotels and the convention centre. Most bars close between 1 and 2 am.

San Diego theatre offerings are outstanding, boasting popular options such as the California Ballet Company, the San Diego Opera and the Starlight Bowl. And for sports lovers, there’s the NFL's San Diego Chargers, MLB's San Diego Padres and the popular Del Mar Racetrack.

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Performing Arts

San Diego boasts a remarkably healthy theatre scene with not one, but two Tony-award-winning theatres. The consistently excellent La Jolla Playhouse often originates innovative and provocative dramas and musicals. Meanwhile, the oldest professional theatre in California, Old Globe Theatre, performs classic, Shakespearean and contemporary works on three stages in Balboa Park. In addition, several smaller companies, such as the San Diego Repertory Theatre and the Lamb's Players Theatre, stage year-round performances of contemporary works.

Options for classical music fanatics range from large concerts by the San Diego Symphony at Copley Symphony Hall to more intimate recitals by the San Diego Chamber Orchestra. The San Diego Opera season runs from January-May and consists of five operas performed at the Civic Theatre.

For those with slightly less rarefied musical tastes, San Diego offers an array of choices in rock, pop, jazz, folk, country, blues, hip-hop and alternative music. Serious rockers head to the ultra-sleek Coors Amphitheatre, which seats up to 20,000 and has become a "must-play" venue for top musicians. The 14,000-seat ipayOne Center also hosts big-name concerts. Smaller venues for upbeat tunes include Humphrey's By The Bay.


With giant multiplexes like the Gaslamp Stadium 15 Pacific Theatres and AMC Mission Valley 20, San Diego's cinemas offer plenty of mass, if not exactly highbrow, fare. Meanwhile, independent, art-house and foreign films are shown at the Hillcrest Cinema or the Ken Cinema, the latter specialising in revivals and cutting edge independent film.


San Diego County has 18 Native American Indian tribes – more than any other county in the nation. Half of them operate casinos in east and north San Diego County, and the Convention & Visitors Bureau publishes an Official Casino Guide with a comprehensive listing and discount coupons.

The Barona Valley Ranch Resort and Casino is located at 1932 Wildcat Canyon Road, Lakeside. The casino features 2,000 Vegas-style slots, 59 table games, and an off-track betting area. The resort (which includes 397 guest rooms and an 18-hole championship golf course) is alcohol-free, but not smoke-free (the Indian reservations are exempt from California's non-smoking laws). Sycuan Casino & Resort is outside El Cajon, at 5469 Casino Way. Sycuan features 2,000 slots, 65 game tables, a 1,200-seat bingo palace, an off-track betting area, and a 450-seat theatre that features name touring acts.

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